Don’t get me wrong, I love relationships—or rather, I love the idea of being in a relationship. When I’m actually in one, I hardly recognize myself. After a handful of romances over the past few years, I’m only certain about one thing: I don’t like who I am when I’m with someone.
I can’t put my phone down.
When I’m single, I rarely check my phone if I’m not expecting a text. I leave it in my car, forget which jacket pocket I’ve put it in, or forget to charge it altogether. When I’m in a relationship, my phone is glued to my hand. I text constantly and rush through roommate or family dinners so I don’t keep my boyfriend hanging. Even though we may not be talking about anything particularly interesting, I feel the need to be in constant contact and miss out on interpersonal relationships with friends and family as a result.
I spend too much money.
Whether I’m buying dinner, drinks, birthday or anniversary gifts, or some sexy and extremely impractical lingerie for no particular reason, I spend a lot more money on my boyfriend and myself when I’m in a relationship. Even if “we decided not to do gifts this year,” I don’t hesitate to drop $5 or $7 on an overpriced card. I’ll splurge on new shoes for date night or dinner with his parents and insist that no earrings I already own are good enough for the occasion.
I dress differently.
Single me flaunts bright colors and bold patterns. She dresses for herself and couldn’t care less about what others think of her style. Relationship me isn’t so brave and dresses with her boyfriend in mind. He may not care what I’m wearing but when I’m dating, I like catching my boyfriend’s eye with skirts, dresses, nice tops, and yes, the aforementioned lingerie. I experiment less and frequently repeat outfits I know he likes. Meanwhile, my favorite yellow scarf hangs sadly in the back of my closet.
I stay up too late.
Known as the apartment grandmother by my roommates, I believe in a reasonable bedtime and value a good night’s sleep more than anything else. However, when I’m in a relationship I stay up later, waking up exhausted before class or work the next morning. If I have the opportunity to sleep in with my boyfriend, I won’t get out of bed until at least 10 a.m., ruining any chance at the productive early mornings I love.
I don’t prioritize my girlfriends.
Single me gets upset when my friends bail on our plans to spend time with their boyfriends and yet, I do the same when I’m part of a couple. My boyfriend becomes my go-to when I want to make weekend plans. When I discover unanticipated free time, it’s him I text first. I’m less available to my girlfriends and my friendships suffer because of it. Ironically, it’s my amazing friends who are always there for me when my relationships end.
I feel more vulnerable.
Opening my heart to a romantic partner makes me far more emotionally fragile than I am when I’m single. I take inconsequential comments more personally and cry more readily. If he builds me up when we’re together, I become inexplicably depressed when he leaves. I’m more aware of my insecurities and desperately try to hide them. The better things are between us, the more afraid I am of losing him and I subject myself to a vicious cycle of worry and anxiety.
I become clingy.
Just typing those words makes single me cringe, but despite my best efforts, I always feel so needy in relationships. When I’m dating a guy, I become dependent on him and his attention in a way I never am on anyone when I’m single. Outside of a relationship, I’m independent and capable; inside of a relationship, my partner’s opinion isn’t just valuable, but necessary. The hours away from him are agonizing and my convictions are weaker. I doubt myself more and tend to lose the confidence that might have attracted him to me in the first place.
I don’t make time for myself.
I spend 90% of my time with my boyfriend and the remaining 10% with my friends (probably talking about my boyfriend), leaving no time for myself and the things I’ve always loved to do. I sacrifice valuable hobbies like journaling, reading, and running to spend time with my partner or friends and then wonder why I still feel unfulfilled in the midst of what seems like the perfect relationship.
I become complacent.
When I’m comfortable in my romantic life, I get too comfortable in other areas: school, my job, and my social life. I don’t explore opportunities outside of my comfort zone, opting instead for the familiarity of what I already know and trust. Somehow having a boyfriend becomes synonymous with success and I stop embracing the types of challenges that have always excited me.
I’m not true to myself.
Perhaps worst of all, I lose my identity and adopt his. “We” like going out, “we” hate sushi, and “we” think there’s nothing more romantic than a late-autumn sunrise hike. I become a “yes” woman, feigning interest in his hobbies that have suddenly become “ours.” I concede all too readily to his opinions and fail to defend mine. When the relationship ends, I have to rediscover who I am without him. And single me is pretty damn cool.
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